Mike Richards was behind the Jeopardy! podium for the Season 38 premiere on Monday despite being fired last month due to previous sexual harassment lawsuits and degrading comments.
On August 11, officials announced that Richards and Big Bang Theory star Mayim Bialik would take over the highly-coveted hosting gig but on August 20, Richards announced that he was stepping down after a single day of taping.
ABC stated that they planned to air the five episodes that Richards recorded before having Bialik take over the position full-time.
Richards, a game show veteran who served as both host and producer over the years, was the second in a series of guest hosts who filled in for the remaining tapings for Season 37, following the tragic death of longtime host Alex Trebek.
Some fans caught off guard: Mike Richards was behind the podium serving as host for the season 38 premiere of Jeopardy! on Monday
After testing out 16 host last season, Richards landed the coveted job as permanent host of Jeopardy!, 15 months after he’d been named the executive producer. Bialik was slated to host special spin-off episodes.
But scandal surfaced in connection to comments he made during podcasts in 2013 and 2014 that contained demeaning remarks about women and minorities.
There were also be accusations of poor workplace conduct and sexual harassment.
By August 20, he was ousted from the hosting gig and a week and a half later he was let go as executive producer of the show.
Fans of the show did not mince words when news broke that Richards would be at the podium for the premiere episode.
In the running: Richards, 46, was announced as the permanent host of Jeopardy! on August 11; he would be out of the host job by August 20 after comments he made, that contained demeaning remarks about women and minorities, surfaced
In a cheeky tribute to the show, one viewer tweeted picture with a Jeopardy! tile which read ‘First Day On the Job’ captioned, ‘I’ll take ‘awkward categories for temporary permanent Jeopardy host Mike Richards’s first episode’ for $100, Ghost of Alex.’
‘Not looking forward to seeing Mike Richards host tonight’s Jeopardy,’ said one fan on Twitter. ‘But ya know what would make up for it? An announcement before the show that they hired [Buzzy Cohen as host].’
Others shared their thoughts on Richards as host after watching the premiere episode.
‘Hate-watching the premiere of #MikeRichards as the new host of #jeopardy,’ another viewer tweeted, which was a common sentiment. Others shared their thoughts that producers could have moved on without ever using Richards as host.
‘Awkward seeing Mike Richards coming out to host #Jeopardy. No crawl or disclaimer,’ another person shared on Twitter before adding, ‘Thought there could be creative editing to work around eps he did. Take a deep breath, he’s only there a week.’
One viewer pointed to the awkwardness of watching the episodes knowing that Richards would be fired after his one day of taping. ‘It’s very fun watching Mike Richards host Jeopardy! right now because the man on tv does not know he’s been fired. He has no idea. But I know. I know he gets fired after filming the fifth game of the day and before he shows up for the next day filming,’ a fan tweeted.
Viewers were not happy to see Richards hosting the first episode of Season 38
Fans took to Twitter to share their displeasure with the airing of Richards recorded shows
Richards recorded five episodes during his one day of taping the popular game show
ABC will air all five episodes of the games that Richards hosted before his ousting last month
In a memo to Jeopardy! staff announcing Richards’ release from the show as executive producer, Sony’s Executive Vice President Suzanne Prete confirmed that been let go, from both Jeopardy! and Wheel Of Fortune.
Prete hinted executives had hoped Richards stepping down as host would have been enough to ‘minimize’ the controversy, but added ‘that clearly has not happened.’
Prete sent the following message in an email, per Deadline: ‘I’m writing to let you know that Mike will no longer be serving as EP of Wheel and Jeopardy! effective immediately.’
‘We had hoped that when Mike stepped down from the host position at Jeopardy! it would have minimized the disruption and internal difficulties we have all experienced these last few weeks. That clearly has not happened.’
Embassy Row’s Michael Davies has agreed to step in on an interim basis. The axing comes after a huge backlash from fans of the show, many of whom had wanted favourite LeVar Burton to take the reins.
Richards was also forced to address recently resurfaced sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuits from his time at The Price Is Right.
Among his controversial comments, Richards previously referred to his former assistant, Beth Triffon, as a ‘booth slut,’ criticized women’s weight and praised ‘the average white-guy host’ on a podcast he co-hosted between 2013-14.
While appearing on The Randumb Show, Richards reportedly said, ‘Ixnay on the ose-nay’ and ‘She’s not an ew-Jay.’ (Pig-Latin for ‘Nix on the nose, she’s not a Jew.’)
He also reportedly once probed his female assistant and co-host about whether they had ever taken nude photos and said one-piece bathing suits made women look ‘frumpy and overweight.’
In another episode, his co-host Triffon mentioned problems with her apartment, to which Richards reportedly said: ‘Does Beth live, like, in Haiti?’
Early in August he was also haunted by past sexual harassment lawsuits. Richards claimed that the way his actions were described in the old lawsuits ‘does not reflect the reality of who I am’ in the memo, obtained by The Hollywood Reporter.
Scandal: Richards’ remarks were reportedly made during podcasts in 2013 and 2014; he is a game show veteran as both a host and producer; Richards was also outed as exec producer
‘I want to address the complicated employment issues raised in the press during my time at The Price is Right ten years ago,’ he said. ‘These were allegations made in employment disputes against the show.’
Shortly after news broke that Richards was positioned to succeed Trebek, his involvement in two harassment lawsuits -brought by two former models at The Price is Right while he was a producer there – resurfaced.
‘I want you all to know that the way in which my comments and actions have been characterized in these complaints does not reflect the reality of who I am or how we worked together on The Price is Right,’ Richards said.
One of the models, Brandi Cochran, sued FremantleMedia North America and The Price is Right Productions in 2010 over claims producers sidelined and harassed her after she became pregnant.
Richards was not named as a defendant in the lawsuit, but Cochran alleged in it that he stopped talking to her as much after she became pregnant and implied that she would have been fired had the pregnancy not been a secret.
‘I know firsthand how special it is to be a parent,’ Richards continued in his statement apparent reference to Brandi’s complaints.
‘It is the most important thing in the world to me,’ Mike added. ‘I would not say anything to disrespect anyone’s pregnancy and have always supported my colleagues on their parenting journeys.’
Mike went on to say that during his time on The Price Is Right and Let’s Make a Deal the shows ’embraced’ the seven babies born to female cast members.
Cochran was initially awarded more than $8 million in compensatory and punitive damages, which was later overturned, as she settled with the company.
Lanishia Cole, meanwhile, sued Richards and another producer as well as FremantleMedia North America in 2011, for wrongful termination and sexual harassment.
She alleged that the producers berated her in front of her peers, and claimed Richards began ignoring her and favoring another model he was in a relationship with in 2009.
The lawsuit was settled in 2013, and Richards, who denied any wrongdoing, was dismissed as a defendant before the settlement was reached.
Emotional farewell: The last episode of Jeopardy! with Alex Trebek as host aired on January 8
RIP: Trebek passed away on November 8, 2020; the longtime host revealed he was diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer in March 2019
Despite viewers displeasure, the five episodes that Richards taped will likely be broadcast sequentially this week, all the while the search for a permanent host continues.
Mayim Bialik, 45, will serve as guest host for several episodes; what happens after that is still to be determined.
The last episode of Jeopardy! with Trebek as host aired posthumously on January 8. Trebek passed away on November 8, 2020 after a battle with stage 4 pancreatic cancer.
Season 38 opened with the announcement that Trebek’s family dedicated the Jeopardy! stage to the beloved host earlier that day. ‘It will now forever be known as The Alex Trebek Stage,’ the commenter said as the camera showed a plaque naming the stage in a touching tribute.